Today as the world celebrates the life of Nelson Mandela, we at TADP join with so many to honor this great human being and to give thanks for his witness to the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.
After suffering from the oppression and brutality of apartheid in South Africa, enduring unspeakable suffering as his friends and fellow South Africans were murdered and as he himself was locked up for 27 years, Mandela chose another way. He saw the viciousness of the cycle of violence and retribution and understood that if he pursued such a course as President, his country would be awash in more blood. Instead, he turned toward forgiveness and worked to bring together those who were once called “enemies,” in order that his nation could become a nation that treats all its citizens–no matter who they are–with dignity and equality.
Not long after Mandela’s election to the South African Presidency in 1994, the nation’s courts abolished the death penalty on June 6, 1995. In a nation where, during the apartheid regime, state violence and retribution were the norms, the nation followed their leader in choosing another way.
In 2005, I was honored to travel to South Africa and attend the 50th wedding anniversary celebration of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife, Leah, after their daughter Naomi (a member of TADP ‘s Advisory Board) invited me. Nelson Mandela attended the celebration, and I had the opportunity to meet him very briefly. This moment was one of the highlights of my life as his witness continues to inspire me in my work today.
As we all remember and celebrate this great leader, let us also be inspired by his example and work even more diligently to end the death penalty system in the U.S., joining the nation of South Africa as a abolition nation.
Picture from NBC News
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